How to support renewable energy (and why you really should)

How to Support Renewable Energy (And Why You Really Should)

Halting climate change will mean wide-spread systematic changes from the government, but also lots of better-informed individual actions from all of us.

There are four ways that we can all help to give our support to renewable power and help to reduce the amount of fossil fuel we’re running through the grid.

Put a renewable power plant on your roof

Using dirty fuels seems rather silly when we think about the abundance of sunlight. Generating your own solar power is a great way to reduce your dependence on fossil fuels, and when you export solar to the grid you can help your neighbours to green up their act.

With over 2 million Australian homes already using solar and lots of new large-scale solar built in 2018, we might start to reach capacity during peak solar time periods. This is pretty amazing, but it also means we need to start spreading out our electricity generation to reduce dependency on fossil fuels as much as possible.

Of course, this means paying attention to not just how much power we’re using, but when we’re using it.

If you’ve got solar, then you can make a bigger impact by setting up your panels to make sure that you’re generating power across the whole day as much as possible.

You could even investigate home battery storage, which means you can use your stored solar energy when the sun isn’t shining.

Use more electricity at renewable times and less at other times

Even if you haven’t got solar, if you change the times you are using power, you can change the ‘mix’ of sources that provide your electricity. If you use more power at sunny time periods, or when it’s really windy, then you’re getting a higher percentage of power to your house from clean electricity sources.

If you use less at peak times when lots of coal and gas is being burnt to provide power, that means less power from dirty sources. Change your behaviour where you can, which may mean being home to run your dryer and hit the switch on the dishwasher during daylight hours, or using smart timers to make it all happen.

The best part about supporting renewables in this way is that it can actually be cheaper than doing nothing. In fact – this is the whole reason we started amber electric! If you’re with amber, then you get wholesale prices for your electricity.

Wholesale prices tend to be lower when there’s lots of renewable power in the grid since it means we don’t need to rely on more expensive dirty sources.

So if you use more power during cheap renewable times, you’re saving money, and more of what you’re paying goes to renewable providers rather than dirty sources… we call that a win-win!

How to Support Renewable Energy (And Why You Really Should)

Government GreenPower Scheme

The nationwide GreenPower scheme lets both individuals and businesses get behind renewable energy. It’s a government-accredited scheme that enables consumers to buy ‘certificates’ generated by renewable energy sources which can offset usage from the grid. This might sound a bit abstract.

Why can’t you just buy your power directly from renewable providers? While it would be awesome if that was possible, the mechanics of electricity get in the way. Once generators feed electricity into the national grid, it’s all identical.

So we have no way of knowing which electrons came from green sources or control which ones you use to power your home (Here’s more on how electricity supply works).

TheGreenPower scheme acts as a financial transfer that operates on top of the electricity grid. Renewable generators are awarded certificates when they generate electricity, and consumers buy these certificates to offset their consumption. This essentially gives renewable energy a price premium over dirty sources, to encourage more development of renewable sources.

Here’s a lot more on the GreenPower scheme from Choice.‍

We believe in GreenPower and are proud to offer this option to our customers. But we also know that paying a premium isn’t for everyone. Of course, you could see the savings you get from buying wholesale as a great offset for your GreenPower contribution.

Invest in renewable resources

A key challenge for renewables is funding. You might have a good handle on where your money goes…but do you know what your super fund does with the cash you have stashed with them? It’s not always where you would prefer. When it comes to the bigger, more established funds, there is still a lot of choice when it comes to choosing an ‘ethical’ fund’.

Compare some ethical super options.‍

A beginner’s guide to the debate over 100% renewable energy

How to Support Renewable Energy (And Why You Really Should)

Enough?

(Shutterstock)

Imagine powering civilization entirely with energy from renewable sources: wind, sun, water (hydroelectricity), naturally occurring heat (geothermal), and plants.

No coal mines, oil wells, pipelines, or coal trains. No greenhouse gas emissions, car exhaust, or polluted streams. No wars over oil, dependence on foreign suppliers, or resource shortages.

Sounds nice, right?

A growing number of activists say it is within reach. The idea has inspired ambitious commitments from an increasing number of cities, including Madison, Wisconsin, San Diego, and Salt Lake City. Advocates are pushing states to support the goal.

Clean-energy enthusiasts frequently claim that we can go bigger, that it’s possible for the whole worldto run on renewables — we merely lack the “political will.”

So, is it true? Do we know how get to an all-renewables system?

Not yet. Not really. Current modeling strongly suggests that we will need a broader portfolio of low-carbon options, including nuclear and possibly coal or natural gas with carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), to get deep cuts in carbon.

How getting renewable energy from your supplier actually works – Drax

Where does our electricity come from? One answer might be the power stations, wind turbines and solar panels that generate it. You might even go as far as to say the wind, sun, water, biomass and gas powering those stations. Or even the network companies transporting that power around the country. But there’s also a very important middle-man in this process: electricity suppliers.

Most of Great Britain gets its power from one of the ‘Big Six’ energy suppliers, which buy electricity from the wholesale market and then sells it to consumers. However, with more businesses and consumers looking for less carbon-intense electricity sources, there are now a whole host of smaller companies taking on the incumbents and offering all-renewable electricity.

How to Support Renewable Energy (And Why You Really Should)

From Ovo to Bulb to Drax’s own Haven Power and Opus Energy, consumers and businesses have more and greener options than ever about where to buy their electricity, with many even offering 100% renewable electricity.

But how do these companies ensure the megawatts powering homes, offices and street lights come from renewable sources?

Cleaning up the river

The electricity we use doesn’t just flow through a single cable from a power station to our houses. It travels through what’s called the transmissions system, which is run by National Grid ESO and local distribution network operators.

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The importance of renewable energy

Renewable energies are sources of clean, inexhaustible and increasingly competitive energy.

They differ from fossil fuels principally in their diversity, abundance and potential for use anywhere on the planet, but above all in that they produce neither greenhouse gases – which cause climate change – nor polluting emissions.

Their costs are also falling and at a sustainable rate, whereas the general cost trend for fossil fuels is in the opposite direction in spite of their present volatility.

Growth in clean energies is unstoppable, as reflected in statistics produced in 2015 by the International Energy Agency (IEA): they represented nearly half of all new electricity generation capacity installed in 2014, when they constituted the second biggest source of electricity worldwide, behind coal.

According to the IEA, world electricity demand will have increased by 70% by 2040 – its share of final energy use rising from 18 to 24% during the same period – driven mainly by the emerging economies of India, China, Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asia.

How to Support Renewable Energy (And Why You Really Should)

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Clean energy development is vital for combating climate change and limiting its most devastating effects. 2014 was the warmest year on record. The Earth’s temperature has risen by an average 0.85 °C since the end of the 19th Century, states National Geographic in its special November 2015 issue on climate change.

Meanwhile, some 1.1 billion inhabitants (17% of the world population) do not have access to electricity. Equally, 2.7 billion people (38% of the population) use conventional biomass for cooking, heating and lighting in their homes – at serious risk to their health. 

As such, one of the objectives established by the United Nations is to achieve to access to electricity for everyone by 2030, an ambitious target considering that, by then, according to the IEA’s estimates, 800 million people will have no access to an electricity supply if current trends continue.

Renewable energies received important backing from the international community through the Paris Accord signed at the World Climate Summit held in the French capital in December 2015.

The agreement, which will enter into force in 2020, establishes, for the first time in history, a binding global objective.

Nearly 200 signatory countries pledged to reduce their emissions so that the average temperature of the planet at the end of the current century remains “well below” 2 °C, the limit above which climate change will have more catastrophic effects. The aim is to try to keep it to 1.5 °C.

Which type of energy should be developed in the future?

Higher Colleges of Technology

Kinectrics

Kirkuk University

Northern Technical University

University of Osijek

Birla Institute of Technology and Science Pilani

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Benigno Antonio Rodriguez-Gomez

University of A Coruña

Mahidol University

Renewtec AB

retired

Warsaw University of Life Sciences – SGGW

Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA)

Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers

Al-Azhar University

Al-Furat Al-Awsat Technical University

Government Polytechnic Ahmedabad

Government Polytechnic Ahmedabad

APINTECH LTD

Warsaw University of Life Sciences – SGGW

Yangon Technological University

Swami Keshwanand Rajasthan Agricultural University – Bikaner

University of Tehran

Yangon Technological University

Dumlupinar Üniversitesi

Yangon Technological University

Yangon Technological University

Government Polytechnic Ahmedabad

Government Polytechnic Ahmedabad

Government Polytechnic Ahmedabad

retired

Technical College Požarevac

Lycée (highschool) des arènes, Toulouse, France

Government Polytechnic Ahmedabad

University of Namibia

Al-Maarif University

University of Santiago de Compostela

Yangon Technological University

Lycée (highschool) des arènes, Toulouse, France

retired

University of Santiago de Compostela

Government Polytechnic Ahmedabad

retired

University of Tehran

Yangon Technological University

Yangon Technological University

Government Polytechnic Ahmedabad

Renewtec AB

Kharkiv Polytechnical Institute

Government Polytechnic Ahmedabad

Northern Technical University, Kirkuk, Iraq

Government Polytechnic Ahmedabad

Government Polytechnic Ahmedabad

Government Polytechnic Ahmedabad

Jagannath University – Bangladesh

Government Polytechnic Ahmedabad

retired

retired

Yangon Technological University

Government Polytechnic Ahmedabad

University of Santiago de Compostela

Ruhr-Universität Bochum

Yangon Technological University

University of Peshawar

Government Polytechnic Ahmedabad

Local Renewable Energy Benefits and Resources | US EPA

Local governments can dramatically reduce their carbon footprint by purchasing or directly generating electricity from clean, renewable sources.

Local governments can lead by example by generating energy on–site, purchasing green power, or purchasing renewable energy. Using a combination of renewable energy options can help meet local government goals especially in some regions where availability and quality of renewable resources vary.

  • Generating renewable energy on-site using a system or device at the location where the power is used (e.g., PV panels on a state building, geothermal heat pumps, biomass-fueled combined heat and power).
  • Purchasing green power through through renewable energy certificates (RECs) – also known as green tags, green energy certificates, or tradable renewable certificates – that represent the technology and environmental attributes of electricity generated from renewable resources.
  • Purchasing renewable energy from an electric utility through a green pricing or green marketing program, where buyers pay a small premium in exchange for electricity generated locally from green power resources.

On-site power generation provides local governments with the most direct access to renewable energy. In addition to the overall benefits, on-site projects also provide a hedge against financial risks and improve power quality and supply reliability.

However, local governments considering on-site generation may face possible technical, financial, and regulatory challenges. To overcome these challenges, local governments can:

DSIRE Exitis a comprehensive source of information on the status of state programs and incentives promoting renewable energy, including information on financial incentives and net metering policies, as well as related awareness and investment programs.

Guide to Purchasing Green Power

EPA's Guide to Purchasing Green Power provides current and potential buyers of green power with information about green power purchasing.

The Guide includes information about the different types of green power products, the benefits of green power purchasing, and how to capture the greatest benefit from your purchase.

The Guide is the product of a cooperative effort between the EPA, the U.S. Department of Energy, the World Resources Institute, and the Center for Resource Solutions.

Local Government Climate and Energy Strategy Series

The Local Government Strategy Series provide a comprehensive, straightforward overview of local government greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction strategies. Staff can use these guides to plan, implement, and evaluate climate and energy projects.

Each guide provides an overview of project benefits, policy mechanisms, investments, key stakeholders, and other implementation considerations. Examples and case studies are incorporated throughout the guides.

Topics covered in the guides include energy efficiency, transportation, urban planning and design, solid waste and materials management, and renewable energy.

RE-Powering America's Land

RE-Powering America's Land is a voluntary EPA program provides mapping, screening and decision-support tools and guidance to support siting renewable energy on potentially contaminated lands, landfills, and mine sites.

This tool helps you locate anaerobic digesters using livestock waste; examine the potential for growth in the agriculture sector; identify and compare investments; and compare state incentives, policies, standards and emissions.

Biomass Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Catalog of Technologies

The Biomass Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Catalog of Technologies (PDF)(122 pp, 5.54MB) provides a detailed technology characterization of biomass CHP Systems. The report reviews the technical and economic characterization of biomass resources, biomass preparation, energy conversion technologies, power productions systems, and complete integrated systems.

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BioPower Atlas

NREL's BioPower Atlas shows where biomass feedstocks can be used for power production.

Biomass Resource Maps

This website provides county–level biomass resource maps, which are useful for states interested in their feedstock potential in the following categories: crop residues, forest residues, primary mill residues, secondary mill residues, urban wood waste, methane emissions from landfills, methane emissions from manure management, methane emissions from wastewater treatment plants, and dedicated energy crops.

Coordinated Resource Offering Protocol (CROP) Evaluations

This website provides the results of CROP evaluations Exitthat have been conducted for more than 50 million acres of public forestlands potentially vulnerable to wildfires. The evaluations contain detailed resource-offering maps and quantify the biomass available for removal within five years.

Forest Inventory Data Online (FIDO)

Is 100 Percent Renewable Energy for the U.S. Possible? Yes

This piece was first published on Jan. 30 under the opinion section of the energy industry news site Utility Dive.

Across America, devastating hurricanes, hellish wildfires, deadly heat waves and other disasters have brought the climate change crisis close to home. In response, more than 100 cities, counties and states – including the two largest, California and New York – have committed to use only renewable or zero-emissions sources for electricity by midcentury.

Should the nation as a whole shoot for such an ambitious goal? Is it even possible for the entire U.S. to supply electricity reliably with 100 percent renewable energy sources?

The bottom line: Yes. But the devil’s in the details, and the debate rages over how to get there. 

Pressing the issue are newly elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and hundreds of public interest groups supporting her proposed Green New Deal.

In a letter to lawmakers on Capitol Hill, the groups say heading off catastrophic levels of global warming demands a shift to 100 percent renewable power generation by 2035 or earlier.

EWG also supports the goals and spirit of the Green New Deal.

That’s ambitious, and not just because 2035 is so close. According to the Energy information Administration, in 2017 renewable energy sources accounted for just under one-sixth of U.S. electricity generation.

Transitioning to 100 percent clean, safe and renewable energy in less than two decades means quickly ending the use not only of fossil fuels, including natural gas, but also of nuclear reactors. Nukes don’t emit greenhouse gases, but they’re dangerous and obscenely expensive, and they generate mountains of radioactive waste.

And besides boosting renewables capacity, we must increase the energy efficiency of homes, businesses and other buildings, and adopt the widespread use of batteries to store the energy from renewables.

The naysayers of 100 percent renewables are known as the all-of-the-above faction. They agree with the need for deep cuts in carbon pollution. They acknowledge that coal is dead, despite the Trump administration’s schemes to keep it on life support.

But they argue we’ll continue to need nuclear power, and need to replace coal with natural gas plants equipped with technology to capture carbon and store or sequester it deep in the earth.

They say an all-renewable grid would be too expensive, and there is no convincing evidence it’s feasible.

None of those arguments stand up.

The Department of Energy recently estimated that initial costs for carbon capture at natural gas plants would increase the cost of power by half.

Studies show it could not be applied at great enough scale to justify the costs, and it would only slow down the transition to renewables. The extraction, transport and burning of natural gas releases methane, a much more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon.

And the current natural gas boom depends on fracking, which uses toxic chemicals that pollute air and water, threatening the health of nearby communities. 

A 2015 analysis conducted by researchers at Stanford University and the University of California at Berkeley found that 100 percent wind and solar power – in conjuction with energy efficiency, energy storage and other advances to complement renewables – could provide electricity to the continental U.S. more reliably than the current system by 2050, and at lower projected costs.

That study is among 60 from around the world reviewed in a recent paper by an international team of scientists, showing why 100 percent renewables is an achievable and affordable option.

They concluded:

  • There’s more than enough solar, wind and hydro potential – 30 times more than business-as-usual forecasts for energy demand in 2050.
  • Technology already exists to account for the variability of wind and solar generation, so that the lights will stay on even when the weather doesn’t cooperate.
  • We do not need to alter the design of the electric grid radically to accommodate 100 percent renewables: The shift is well underway and accelerating.

Renewable Energy: The Clean Facts

Wind turbines and a large solar panel in Palm Springs, California

Renewable power is booming, as innovation brings down costs and starts to deliver on the promise of a clean energy future. American solar and wind generation are breaking records and being integrated into the national electricity grid without compromising reliability.

This means that renewables are increasingly displacing “dirty” fossil fuels in the power sector, offering the benefit of lower emissions of carbon and other types of pollution. But not all sources of energy marketed as “renewable” are beneficial to the environment.

Biomass and large hydroelectric dams create difficult tradeoffs when considering the impact on wildlife, climate change, and other issues.

Here’s what you should know about the different types of renewable energy sources—and how you can use these emerging technologies at your own home.

What Is Renewable Energy?

Renewable energy, often referred to as clean energy, comes from natural sources or processes that are constantly replenished. For example, sunlight or wind keep shining and blowing, even if their availability depends on time and weather.

While renewable energy is often thought of as a new technology, harnessing nature’s power has long been used for heating, transportation, lighting, and more.

Wind has powered boats to sail the seas and windmills to grind grain. The sun has provided warmth during the day and helped kindle fires to last into the evening.

But over the past 500 years or so, humans increasingly turned to cheaper, dirtier energy sources such as coal and fracked gas. 

Now that we have increasingly innovative and less-expensive ways to capture and retain wind and solar energy, renewables are becoming a more important power source, accounting for more than one-eighth of U.S. generation.

The expansion in renewables is also happening at scales large and small, from rooftop solar panels on homes that can sell power back to the grid to giant offshore wind farms.

Even some entire rural communities rely on renewable energy for heating and lighting.

As renewable use continues to grow, a key goal will be to modernize America’s electricity grid, making it smarter, more secure, and better integrated across regions.

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Dirty energy

Nonrenewable, or “dirty,” energy includes fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal. Nonrenewable sources of energy are only available in limited amounts and take a long time to replenish. When we pump gas at the station, we’re using a finite resource refined from crude oil that’s been around since prehistoric times.

Nonrenewable energy sources are also typically found in specific parts of the world, making them more plentiful in some nations than others. By contrast, every country has access to sunshine and wind. Prioritizing nonrenewable energy can also improve national security by reducing a country’s reliance on exports from fossil fuel–rich nations.

Many nonrenewable energy sources can endanger the environment or human health. For example, oil drilling might require strip-mining Canada’s boreal forest, the technology associated with fracking can cause earthquakes and water pollution, and coal power plants foul the air. To top it off, all these activities contribute to global warming.

Types of Renewable Energy Sources

Solar Energy

Humans have been harnessing solar energy for thousands of years—to grow crops, stay warm, and dry foods. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “more energy from the sun falls on the earth in one hour than is used by everyone in the world in one year.” Today, we use the sun’s rays in many ways—to heat homes and businesses, to warm water, or power devices.

Solar panels on the rooftops of East Austin, Texas

Solar, or photovoltaic (PV), cells are made from silicon or other materials that transform sunlight directly into electricity.

Distributed solar systems generate electricity locally for homes and businesses, either through rooftop panels or community projects that power entire neighborhoods.

Solar farms can generate power for thousands of homes, using mirrors to concentrate sunlight across acres of solar cells. Floating solar farms—or “floatovoltaics”—can be an effective use of wastewater facilities and bodies of water that aren’t ecologically sensitive.  

Solar supplies a little more than 1 percent of U.S. electricity generation. But nearly a third of all new generating capacity came from solar in 2017, second only to natural gas.

Solar energy systems don’t produce air pollutants or greenhouse gases, and as long as they are responsibly sited, most solar panels have few environmental impacts beyond the manufacturing process.

Wind Energy

We’ve come a long way from old-fashioned wind mills. Today, turbines as tall as skyscrapers—with turbines nearly as wide in diameter—stand at attention around the world. Wind energy turns a turbine’s blades, which feeds an electric generator and produces electricity.

Wind, which accounts for a little more than 6 percent of U.S. generation, has become the cheapest energy source in many parts of the country. Top wind power states include California, Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Iowa, though turbines can be placed anywhere with high wind speeds—such as hilltops and open plains—or even offshore in open water.

Other Alternative Energy Sources

Hydroelectric Power

Hydropower is the largest renewable energy source for electricity in the United States, though wind energy is soon expected to take over the lead. Hydropower relies on water—typically fast-moving water in a large river or rapidly descending water from a high point—and converts the force of that water into electricity by spinning a generator’s turbine blades.

Nationally and internationally, large hydroelectric plants—or mega-dams—are often considered to be nonrenewable energy.

Mega-dams divert and reduce natural flows, restricting access for animal and human populations that rely on rivers.

Small hydroelectric plants (an installed capacity below about 40 megawatts), carefully managed, do not tend to cause as much environmental damage, as they divert only a fraction of flow.

Biomass Energy 

Biomass is organic material that comes from plants and animals, and includes crops, waste wood, and trees. When biomass is burned, the chemical energy is released as heat and can generate electricity with a steam turbine. 

Biomass is often mistakenly described as a clean, renewable fuel and a greener alternative to coal and other fossil fuels for producing electricity. However, recent science shows that many forms of biomass—especially from forests—produce higher carbon emissions than fossil fuels.

There are also negative consequences for biodiversity. Still, some forms of biomass energy could serve as a low-carbon option under the right circumstances.

For example, sawdust and chips from sawmills that would otherwise quickly decompose and release carbon can be a low-carbon energy source.

Geothermal Energy 

The Svartsengi geothermal power plant near Grindavík, Iceland

Daniel Snaer Ragnarsson/iStock

If you’ve ever relaxed in a hot spring, you’ve used geothermal energy. The earth’s core is about as hot as the sun’s surface, due to the slow decay of radioactive particles in rocks at the center of the planet.

Drilling deep wells brings very hot underground water to the surface as a hydrothermal resource, which is then pumped through a turbine to create electricity. Geothermal plants typically have low emissions if they pump the steam and water they use back into the reservoir.

There are ways to create geothermal plants where there are not underground reservoirs, but there are concerns that they may increase the risk of an earthquake in areas already considered geological hot spots.

Ocean

A Complete Guide to 7 Renewable Energy Sources

Have you been wondering what “renewable energy” really means? Renewable energy sources are literally found in sunlight, in the air, deep underground and in our oceans. They are part of the planet’s physical structure, which means they are constantly being renewed by natural means. They simply cannot run out.

These sustainable energy sources are often called “alternative energy” because they’re considered to be an alternative to traditional fossil fuels such as oil and coal.

Just because an energy source is renewable doesn’t mean it’s 100 percent environmentally safe. For instance, dams harness the power of moving water, but they can also harm fish and wildlife.

Wind turbines use the sun’s energy to generate clean electricity, but there are environmental impacts from the manufacturing process.

All told, though, alternative energy resources pack a much lighter environmental footprint than fossil fuels. This is why renewable energy sources are so important – they are our ticket to a less polluted world. Even if we did not face the threat of climate change, minimizing pollution is basic for good health.

And what’s good for the environment is increasingly good economically for homeowners and businesses. Solar and wind power, in particular, are now less expensive than fossil fuels in many parts of the world, and the price keeps decreasing annually.  (Learn all about going solar in our Solar Resource Center.) 

So how does renewable energy work? Here’s a look at seven clean energy sources that can be tapped directly or indirectly to help our world go green and fight global warming. Aside from geothermal and hydrogen, the sun plays a significant role in each of these types of renewable energy.

Green and Clean: Sustainable Energy Sources

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